Chemistry assignment produces wrong reaction


By Sue Curtis



I am in the middle of reading a book about a woman in her late 30’s who is transported back to the eve of her high school graduation. Now, as a reader, we aren’t sure if this is a dream or if this is really happening. The heroine is convinced it’s real, and has determined that she was sent back in time to change the course of some action she took (or didn’t take) at age 18.

This brought all my high school decisions rushing back to me. Some, of course, were pretty good in retrospect. But, I also made some bad choices about things. Nothing criminal, mind you, but choices that would be interesting to change.

For example, I really fouled up chemistry. Up until my senior year, my grades were excellent. I was second in the class by the end of my junior year. Then I took chemistry. It shouldn’t have been hard for me, at all. In fact, I got an “A” in the first nine week grading period. The teacher wasn’t my favorite, but during that first grading period, I learned cool stuff and didn’t think he was awful. Then the second grading period rolled around.

He assigned each of us a paper. I received the topic “aluminum.” The paper had to be five pages long and there were some required elements to it. Should have been a piece of cake for me.

Meanwhile, I was taking advanced English, in which we were learning how to write theme papers. We were taught to use a catchy introduction, and to write a summary that related back to the introduction in some way. So, of course, that’s how I wrote the paper on aluminum. Nowadays, that’s called “integrated curriculum.” Not so, then, however.

The chemistry teacher didn’t like the half-page introduction, nor the summary. He called it “fluff” and took off points as, in his opinion, this cut the paper down by one page. I received a “C.” I’d never received a grade lower than an A on a writing assignment in my entire high school career!

It strikes me interesting that after all these years, I remember that paper, the introduction. In fact, I remember more about that paper than I recall about my master’s thesis.

I was pretty upset, and subsequently made a totally illogical, terrible decision. I decided I’d “show him.” I quit studying, quit responding in class, and quit turning in homework. I got a C the next nine weeks, and D’s in the two following nine weeks. Then, on the final exam, I got a 100 percent — A+ — just to “show him” I knew chemistry and he was a lousy teacher.

My parents were outraged and disappointed. My standing in the class dropped from second to fourth. I ended up feeling foolish and am pretty sure I didn’t “show him” anything, except that his opinion was affirmed.

Yeah, if I could go back and do it over — I’d definitely do better in chemistry. How about you?

Email me at suecurtis9@gmail.com.

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By Sue Curtis

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at a local elementary school and Hospice and keeps busy taking care of house, husband, son, and pets. She lives just outside of Troy, Ohio.

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at a local elementary school and Hospice and keeps busy taking care of house, husband, son, and pets. She lives just outside of Troy, Ohio.